Now That’s a Big Bang Theory!

Every Monday, the LiveScience website publishes an article on a discovery, event, or character that influenced the course of history. This week’s note is “How the Eruption of Thera [modern Santorini] Changed the World”:

The world map might look differently had the Greek volcano Thera not erupted 3,500 years ago in what geologists believe was the single-most powerful explosive event ever witnessed.

Thera didn’t just blow a massive hole into the island of Santorini – it set the entire ancient Mediterranean onto a different course, like a train that switched tracks to head off in a brand new direction.

Minoan culture, the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean at the time, crumbled as a result of the eruption, historians believe, changing the political landscape of the ancient world indefinitely. Environmental effects were felt across the globe, as far away as China and perhaps even North America and Antarctica. [more…]

The growing interest in anthropogenic global warming (oops?) has brought some much needed attention to the influence of climate on culture and history. The effect of climate on societies–especially preindustrial, agricultural societies–would seem to be blindingly obvious, but too often we forget that even slight changes in weather and climate can profoundly influence the course of events. Don’t believe me? Ask Kublai Khan and Monsieur Napoleon.

Vox Romana VI

The Sixth Edition of Vox Romana, is a free bi-monthly podcast about all things Roman. In this edition:

1. Introduction (Hortensia) | 2. Classical News (Hortensia) | 3. The Roman Calendar part 1 (Saturninus) | 4. Plinian Rough Mix (Meredith Bragg) | 5. Aeneid (Anna) | 6. Sign off (Hortensia)

The BBC has a nifty slide show documenting the very cool hi-tech cleaning of the Parthenon Marbles in Athens, which has removed decades of pollution.

parthenon marbles

Since the damage to the Athenian reliefs turned out to be less severe than previously thought, the cleaning has fueled the debate over whether the rest of the marbles, (in)famously known as the “Elgin Marbles” and on display in the British Museum, should be repatriated to Athens and installed in the New Acropolis Museum.

Greetings From Rome! Sarah at the Centro I

Centro Sign

Sarah writes…

I’m finally able to refer to the mental map of Rome in my head, it’s really exciting to have free time and be able to go around the city, just me, my water bottle, bus pass, and copy of my passport (safety first). I went to the Victor Emmanuel monument at Piazza Venezia awhile ago, what an amazing view. The intersection between ancient and modern Rome is striking from there, with a view of the ancient Roman Forum and modern Via del Corso (a street with great shopping opportunities).
Read more »

Extreme Makeover: Plaster Edition

From Tri-Co News and Notes comes an update about a piece of Haverford’s Classical past:

Whitney Ale, teaching assistant for Haverford sculpture professor Marianne Weil, spent the tail end of fall semester restoring a 150-year old plaster- cast bust of the goddess Diana that once sat atop the shelves of the old Haverford Library. As reported in a previous blog posting, busts of Diana and Aristotle were recently identified and discovered on campus.

[Read more…]

Making Myth-istory

According to a new poll, it seems Britons are busy turning their storied history into myth and legend (via AFP):

LONDON (AFP) – Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll out Monday which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real. The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth.
And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. [Read the rest of the story…]

I’m a bit skeptical of the findings, since such polls are susceptible to mischievous pranksters (“sure I believe in Snow White” *snicker snicker*). Nevertheless, the story remind us how we tend to mythologize stories and figures about which we have imprecise knowledge.

“Father of History” on the PR circuit

Herodotus and Robert Strassler’s new Landmark Herodotus took center stage yesterday on NPR’s “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” (program available in archive). No word on whether that inveterate Herodotus-hater Plutarch, author of “On the Malice of Herodotus”, was available for comment.

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